Hey folks, it’s the time of year for drama and pseudo-fanfiction, so let’s jump right in, shall we?
SB Nation has posted a variety of excellent pieces this week about how things might have changed if one small event had gone another way. Most of these pieces revolve around the draft board. How different would the world be if team X didn’t draft Y?
The question is obviously rooted sports fiction, but it is also a helpful exercise when it comes to analyzing players and teams. At worst, what-if scenarios are a waste of time. At best, they can help us better appreciate reality and prepare for future eventualities.
With the eminent re-release of Avengers Endgame this weekend, it all makes sense to revisit the most dramatic and History-changing moment in Chargers draft history. A significant event occurred that shook almost every corner of the NFL, and any changes to that timeline, even slight, might have changed things entirely.
“That’s not how time works,” you say. Well, alternate realities and the upcoming Spiderman: Far From Home beg to disagree. So THERE.
Adam Stites took an exciting look at how “the trade” fizzling out might have affected six different teams. I strongly recommend that you read his article, as it gives a lot of fascinating food for thought.
In Stite’s alternate reality, the (finest hour in Chargers history, in my humble opinion) last-second phone call and trade did not occur. That meant that the Chargers indeed kept their #1 pick, Eli Manning, and the Giants and Steelers figured their own way through it all.
The good news for all three teams: These QBs are still playing today. You really can’t go wrong.
The bad news for the Chargers: Eli keeps his word and sits out year one. So, I guess, this did go wrong? But think again!
This would propel Drew Brees into the role of Chargers’ QB for life. While I have very strong doubts that the team wouldn’t try to trade Manning’s rights or find some sort of middle ground, it does seem very plausible that Brees would have had a better chance of playing out his years in San Diewherever.
The most interesting part of this alternate History, to me at least, is that Rivers goes on to join the Steelers. This Steelers team was stacked, but they also got clobbered by New England in 2004. I think that Rivers would’ve hoisted that trophy in 2005, as the Steelers certainly did.
The Question of the Day
Would Rivers have earned one (or two?) Super Bowl wins (or appearances) with either the Giants or the Steelers? The simple answer is—yes. The Steelers were the much more likely landing spot for Rivers (the #3 QB by most expectations), but it’s also important to note that the Giants did draft him.
The Steelers were a great team, and the years that they did win the Super Bowl were great-team years. The Giants were a mix of good and bad teams, and the years they won the Lombardi were those years when Manning played with cheat codes during the playoffs.
It’s also worth ruminating whether or not the incredible play and longevity of Drew Brees would have had a better-than-Rivers result in San Diego (or heck, even this year!).
For my money, I would say that Rivers was and is a quality enough QB to play as well or better than his draftmates, and he’d have his ring by now. I also would reject the notion that “the trade” was then, somehow, bad for him or his career.
It’s also an important consideration that there’s still gas left in the tank. The narrative could flip yet again!
-Jason “June NFL” Michaels